Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

My Fair Lady at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.

Henze: Elegie für junge Liebende

Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times), numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above all, a composer of opera.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Der Rosenkavalier: Welsh National Opera in Cardiff

Olivia Fuchs' new production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier is a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. The production debuted in Magdeburg last year and now Welsh National Opera is presenting the production as part of its Summer season, the company's first Der Rosenkavalier since 1990 (when the cast included Rita Cullis as the Marschallin and Amanda Roocroft making her role debut as Sophie).

Don Giovanni takes to the waves at Investec Opera Holland Park

There’s no reason why Oliver Platt’s imaginative ‘concept’ for this new production of Don Giovanni at Investec Opera Holland Park shouldn’t work very well. Designer Neil Irish has reconstructed a deck of RMS Queen Mary - the Cunard-White Star Line’s flag-ship cruiser during the 1930s, that golden age of trans-Atlantic cruising. Spanning the entire width of the OHP stage, the deck is lined with port-holed cabin doors - perfect hideaways for one of the Don’s hasty romantic dalliances.

"Recreated" Figaro at Garsington delights

After the preceding evening’s presentation of Annilese Miskimmon’s sparkling production of Handel’s Semele - an account of marital infidelity in immortal realms - the second opera of Garsington Opera’s 2017 season brought us down to earth for more mundane disloyalties and deceptions amongst the moneyed aristocracy of the eighteenth-century, as presented by John Cox in his 2005 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

Semele: star-dust and sparkle at Garsington Opera

To open the 2017 season at Garsington Opera, director Annilese Miskimmon and designer Nicky Shaw offer a visually beautifully new production of Handel's Semele in which comic ribaldry and celestial feuding converge and are transfigured into star-dust.

La rondine at Investec Opera Holland Park

Opera Holland Park's 2017 season opened on 1 June 2017 with Martin Lloyd-Evans's new production of Puccini's La Rondine, designed by takis, with lighting by Mark Howland and choreography by Steve Elias. Elizabeth Llewellyn was Magda with Matteo Lippi as Ruggero, Tereza Gevorgyan as Lisette, Stephen Aviss as Prunier and David Stephenson as Rambaldo, Matthew Kofi Waldren conducted the City of London Sinfonia.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Andreas Scholl
17 Jun 2009

Andreas Scholl at Wigmore Hall

Strikes on the London Underground system may have made this a particularly exhausting and exasperating week for Londoners, but despite these wearing adversities Friday evening saw an eager crowd flock to the Wigmore Hall, in excited anticipation of an inspiring and invigorating blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar — and they were not disappointed.

Andreas Scholl at Wigmore Hall

Andreas Scholl countertenor. Shield of Harmony: Crawford Young lute, director; Kathleen Dineen voice harp; Margit Übellacker dulce melos; Marc Lewon vielle, lute, checker. Wigmore Hall, London.

Above: Andreas Scholl

 

Scholl’s exquisite tonal beauty and superb clarity of diction are well-known to, and relished by, lovers of song, and both were much in evidence here. But few in the audience can have been familiar with the songs of the fifteenth-century German composer, Oswald von Wolkenstein, or with the startling timbral blend of the voices and instruments of the ensemble, Shield of Harmony — although after this stunning performance there is no doubt they will be eager for more.

Oswald von Wolkenstein was a poet, musician, nobleman and diplomat. An aristocrat, he was deeply involved in the political events of his time; moreover, travels in Europe, from the early age of 10, exposed him to an eclectic range of musical influences. In particular he absorbed the sophistications and developments of French song and incorporated troubadour idioms from the Romance languages into the German court context, revolutionising the German tradition.

His songs reflect the variety of his life; indeed, mimicking the songs of the early troubadours, they provide an autobiographical passage through his travels, exploits, loves and careers, spiced with philosophical ruminations, political observations and humorous drolleries. Typical of the period, the sacred blended subtly with the sexual. This recital presented a variety of forms, long narratives interspersed with shorter lyrics and instrumental solos.

Scholl’s enunciation was superlative throughout. Indeed, there is a spoken quality to many of these songs — Spruchdichtung — forming a continuum with Wolkenstein’s poetry, and reflecting the unity of poetry and song in this period. Like a story-teller, Scholl enhanced the narrative effect by occasionally beginning with a spoken introduction which evolved naturally into song - as in ‘Es fuegt sich’ (‘It happened’), whose three parts formed a framework for the recital. Here Scholl deftly recreated Wolkenstein’s character, telling of his travels in distant lands, his musical, mercantile and military accomplishments, and his amorous adventures.

Scholl’s voice was unfailingly sweet and warm, never cloying, and loveliest in the upper range, as in one of the evening’s highlights, ‘Herz, müt, leib’ (‘Heart, mind, body’). His soothed and lured the audience, drawing them into his tale: we celebrated his pride and success - ‘Many a wise man has valued my advice,/ like my tuneful songs’ - and laughed at his mischievous opportunism: ‘Many things then came easily,/ when I wore the monk’s hood,/ in truth, never before or after were girls so friendly, as they listened to my chatter’.

And we experienced the intensity of his passion — his anguish and yearning for transfiguration being worthy of a Schubert lied:

‘When I’m with her, I lose my equilibrium,
because of a woman I must travel a bad road,
into the wilds, until her dislike mercifully vanishes;
if she would help me, my sadness would become bliss.’ (‘Es fuegt sich’, part 2)

Most of Wolkenstein’s songs are monophonic, but Scholl was joined by Kathleen Dineen in two duets, ‘Ach senliches leiden’ (‘Alas heartfelt pain’) and the mesmerising ‘Nu rue mit sorgen’ (‘Now rest from your cares’), in which the exquisite union of these two unaffected voices effortlessly conveyed the erotic charge of the text and the poignancy of loss and pain.

The instrumental pieces provided variety and charm, the players of Shield of Harmony demonstrating considerable rhythmic dexterity and delighting in the complex, simultaneous use of duple and triple rhythms.

So hypnotising was this performance that I suspect many in the audience, like this listener, failed to notice when Scholl slipped effortlessly to a baritone voice for final song.

Scholl and Shield of Harmony demonstrated total mastery of this material: golden voices appropriate to this golden age of German minnesang.

Claire Seymour

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):